Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 01 July 2011 00:00
The Village of North Hills is in shock after the death of Gerard Cohen, a trustee on the village board, who passed away last Wednesday, June 22 only one day after being re-elected to the BOT. Cohen was 66.
“We are all shocked after what was a great victory for him,” an audibly upset Mayor Marvin Natiss told The Roslyn News. “He was a terrific guy, he cared about the community, he cared about the village. He was bright and capable and will be sorely missed.”
Natiss related how he and his fellow BOT members learned of the sudden turn of events that took place last Tuesday, June 21 and Wednesday, June 22.
“I spoke with him on Wednesday afternoon,” Natiss recalled. Cohen told Natiss that he would see him at the BOT meeting scheduled for that evening. Cohen, Natiss added, didn’t show up on time and the meeting began without him. After the first hearing, Mayor Natiss instructed Trustee Dennis Sgambati to call the Cohen household, since it wasn’t in Gerard’s nature to be late for meetings. It was with that phone call that the BOT learned from Cohen’s wife, Gail, of his passing. “We sat there in total shock,” Natiss recalled, “On Tuesday night, we were all happy. On Wednesday, we were numb; we were all upset and crying.”
In the June 21 election, Cohen was the leading vote getter among the three candidates competing for two BOT seats. Cohen received 457 votes, while Dennis Sgambati, another incumbent, had 315 votes. The challenger, Roberta Popper, received 293 votes.
Cohen, along with Sgambati, would have begun serving another four-year term on the BOT, beginning next month. But now the village is facing a vacancy on the BOT, and far more importantly, the loss of a man who had been appointed by Mayor Natiss only in August 2010 to fill a vacancy on the board. Mayor Natiss said that there would be an appointment by him to the BOT later in the year and that would be followed by a special election that would probably take place within a year.
A native of Long Beach, Cohen and his family moved to North Hills in 1991. Since then, he served the village in a number of capacities. The proprietor of a self-storage facility in New Hyde Park, Cohen had been appointed by Mayor Natiss to represent the village on the boards of the North Shore Cable Commission and Public Access TV.
Over the years he served on many co-op, condominium and homeowner association boards, always being an active and progressive board member as well as committee chairman or committee member. At the time of his death, Cohen also served as vice president of the Links Homeowners Association and the New Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he had been elected to the Acorn Ponds Condo III Board in 1995 and served for 11 years. During those 11 years, Cohen chaired the Maintenance Committee for Condo III. He also was a representative to the Acorn Ponds Homeowners Association where he chaired the Homeowners Telecommunication Committee and also served on the Roadway Reconstruction Project Committee, Entrance Re-Design Committee, Outdoor Pool Reconstruction Committee, Clubhouse Roofing and HVAC Committee. Cohen was instrumental in identifying and making recommendations to alleviate community-flooding issues.
During his re-election campaign, Cohen listed his achievements during his brief time on the BOT and his goals for the future.
He told The Roslyn News that if re-elected, he would hope to continue to serve to ensure that the village will continue to grow in the most fiscally responsible manner possible, while at the same time preserving the infrastructure and maintaining property values.
As trustee, Cohen voted for such items as the adoption of the transportation survey, emergency management plan, fire department re-districting and reduction in the village budget of over $100,000 as well as negotiating village employee wages.
For now, all this pales in comparison to this tight-knit village losing a valued neighbor, public servant, and friend.
Mayor Natiss said he chose Cohen to fill a vacancy on the BOT due to his earlier service to the village while on the cable commission. That vacancy came up when Marvin Rothenberg, a longtime BOT member resigned. Natiss told The Roslyn News that Cohen had proved to be “very competent, articulate and well-deserving” of filling the vacancy.
Cohen is survived by his wife, Gail, two children, David Cohen of East Meadow and Bambi Elayne Cohen of Durham, NC; one granddaughter. The funeral took place last Monday at Guttenberg Funeral Home in Westbury.